Tag Archives: Dyeing

Woad Dyeing with pigment and leaves

On Friday we were given the opportunity to dye with woad in both leaf and pigment form. We were explained the complex process of extracting the dye from leaves  in stages.

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We began with the fresh woad leaves that were then torn up to release the dye. The leaves then have to be steeped in water, at roughly 90 degrees so the water is hot but not boiling. After the liquid is strained to remove the leaves leaving the pigmented water.


The next stage is to heat the strained liquid to a temperature that does not exceed 50 degrees, as overheating can ruin the pigmentation process. As woad is insoluble the dye itself will not attach easily to the fibres, so an alkaline has to be added to neutralise the liquid. In this case we added soda crystals. After a while the liquid had a blue foam coating the surface, and a slight yellowish tinge underneath:

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Once the vat was ready to use, we carefully lowered a mixture of yarns and fabric so we could have a comparison of the effect of colour:


We left the fibres in for approximately half an hour. Meanwhile we prepared the vat using the pigment dye that had already been extracted from the leaves. This followed a similar process but cut out the preparation so the powdered pigment could be added instantly to hot water before adding the fabric.  Spectralite, a chemical substance, is added with the pigment. The dying then takes roughly the same amount of time.



What was most interesting with both dying processes is the colour change the fibres underwent with oxidisation. Once taken out of the dye vat both the pigment and leaf dyed fabrics turned from a vivid florescent green to a range of blues.




Our tests with both processes showed the leaves produced a more turquoise blue, whereas the pigment delivered a deeper indigo hue.

However woad is not only limited to produce blue when dying. The exhausted leaves discarded in the straining can be used to dye too. When immersed in 50 degree water as with the others, the leaves can produce a range of pink and peach tones.

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Below left: an example of a pink made by using the leftover leaves. Right: A range of coloured yarns produced with woad dyes.

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Although blue is not a colour obviously present in nature, it would appear this little plant has it in abundance.

DSCF3325       A range of plants that produce blue dye.

Making Hanks to dye for…

Today the process for woad dying in the weave room began as selected yarns had to be soaked in water for twenty four hours.



Using the natural yarns; silk, cotton, alpaca, bamboo, linen and wool we created hanks through winding them on frames.

For each yarn type  three bunches per person were needed, they are now soaking overnight, ready for tomorrow…



Woad Dyeing

Today, final preperation is underway for tomorrows Woad dyeing workshops and experiments.

Thanks to Ian Howard at Woad Inc in Norfolk the woad arrived this morning in fresh leaf form, as well as dried Woad balls, the traditional method of preserving woad for dyeing and as powdered pigment.

The Weave students are busy making hanks of yarn which will be soaked overnight ready to dip in the various Dye Vats tomorrow.

Hoping for some interesting results and looking forward to an exciting learning experience for all on this ancient natural dyeing process and everyones posts and comments on the day.

Please remember to bring your cameras to document and capture the event and to share your experiences of the different dye processes.

Fresh Woad leaf, woad balls and jar of pigment.

Fresh Woad leaf, woad balls and jar of pigment.


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